Slight rise in Malays, Indians who feel discriminated at work

Minority groups indicated in the study that they felt discriminated against when applying for jobs or seeking a promotion.
Minority groups indicated in the study that they felt discriminated against when applying for jobs or seeking a promotion.PHOTO: ST FILE

While there were improvements in relations between the different groups, researchers found an area of concern - almost 60 per cent of Malays and 56 per cent of Indians perceived discriminatory treatment at work.

This was a slight increase from 58.7 per cent of Malays and 52.6 per cent of Indians five years ago, according to the latest Institute of Policy Studies-OnePeople.sg survey on racial and religious harmony released yesterday.

Minority groups indicated in the survey that they felt discriminated against when applying for jobs or seeking a promotion.

For example, 51.6 per cent of Malays last year said they "sometimes" or "often/very often or always" felt discriminated against when applying for a job, an increase from 47.2 per cent in 2013. The survey showed 47 per cent of Indians felt the same way, as did about 12 per cent of Chinese respondents.

When it came to job promotions, almost 14 per cent of Chinese "sometimes" or "often/very often or always" perceived discrimination, but the figure was higher for Malays and Indians, around 51 per cent and 45 per cent, respectively.

Almost 32 per cent of all respondents said Malays had to work harder or much harder than someone of another race to reach the top spot in their company.

For Indians, the figure was about 27 per cent, compared with about 14 per cent of Chinese.

But discrimination can be hard to prove. Workplace racial discrimination complaints accounted for only 5 per cent of all complaints received by the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (Tafep) and the Ministry of Manpower from 2014 to last year.

 

National University of Singapore sociologist Tan Ern Ser said hiring and promotion processes need to be objective and transparent, by using measurable criteria and racially diverse interview panels, for example.

"There is room for people to attribute their failure to get a job or promotion to race," he observed.

"In a situation where jobs are hard to come by, for instance in a recession, there could be a higher probability of job seekers blaming their failure to get a job to non-meritocratic reasons."

Tafep said that race requirements in job advertisements and inappropriate remarks made during interviews have been cited as examples of discriminatory behaviour.

"In most cases, the employers were not aware their actions could offend others," said its spokesman.

 
 

"Therefore, it is crucial that employers abide by the Tripartite Guidelines on Fair Employment Practices, and treat all employees fairly and with respect." The guidelines set out good practices in areas such as selection and hiring, as well as salaries and promotions.

Nanyang Technological University associate provost and sociologist Kwok Kian Woon noted that members of the Chinese majority tend to have fewer chances of experiencing discrimination.

"Chinese Singaporeans should not take for granted their majority status and should consciously and constantly make an effort to reach out to fellow citizens."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 31, 2019, with the headline 'Slight rise in Malays, Indians who feel discriminated at work'. Print Edition | Subscribe